US first lady Melania Trump attended the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA)'s drug-free Red Ribbon event on Monday alongside 'Breaking Bad' actor Dean Norris, where they warned of the dangers of e-cigarettes and vaping.
“It is important to me that we all work to educate children and families about the dangers associated with this habit. Marketing this addictive product to children must stop,” Trump said.
Norris, who played Hank Schrader, the head of the Albuquerque DEA in the hit TV show Breaking Bad, referenced his time on the show saying: “It’s my first time at the DEA headquarters" and noted that his TV role will always have a “special place in my heart".
Following the event, Norris said that he was not permitted to personally speak to the first lady but would "next time".
The 2019 US anti-drug campaign comes after US President Donald Trump announced on 11 September that his administration would evaluate a ban on the sale of non-tobacco flavoured vaping liquid after several deaths and lung injuries in the US.
This also follows indications made by the first lady of taking up vaping danger awareness as a personal cause last month, after she tweeted that she was “deeply concerned about the growing epidemic of e-cigarette use in our children.”
I am deeply concerned about the growing epidemic of e-cigarette use in our children. We need to do all we can to protect the public from tobacco-related disease and death, and prevent e-cigarettes from becoming an on-ramp to nicotine addiction for a generation of youth. @HHSGov— Melania Trump (@FLOTUS) September 9, 2019
The national Red Ribbon campaign memorializes Special Agent Enrique 'Kiki' Camarena, who was tortured and murdered by drug traffickers in Mexico in March of 1985. His widow, Mika, attended the event with the first lady. Students promise to live drug-free during Red Ribbon week, from 23 October through the end of the month.
The Melania Trump visit marks the first ever by a first lady to a DEA event. Acting DEA administrator Uttam Dhillon said that this year's Red Ribbon campaign was important as “we are beginning to see progress” in the fight against the opioid epidemic sweeping the US, citing a 5-percent drop in overdoses.
“There is still much more work to be done but we are seeing meaningful improvement,” Dhillon said.
While the US remains embroiled in the opium crisis, seeing addiction levels and overdose deaths skyrocket resulting from over-prescribed and heavily-marketed pharmaceuticals, the DEA has been accused by a government watchdog of permitting an increase in the manufacturing of highly-addictive painkillers in 2017, a period when opioid overdose deaths hit a record high.